Welcome to Winnipeg

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By: Susan Vaccaro

 Rajan was lamenting the loss of his Gucci shower cap. I was standing proudly in front of my recently procured art deco apartment in central St Kilda, meeting and greeting with the locals. Well, actually, I was chatting with my neighbor while being sniffed and barked at by two little white fur balls. Rajan was recounting a recent spate of thefts in our apartment block; “you know,” he said in soft tones laced with a delicate Indian accent, “my darlings were barking but they still managed to climb in the bathroom window and take my things. We had two bikes and a ladder stolen, too”.

This was not what I wanted to hear. I had been mindful that living in a big city was going to require a greater level of what I call PSA – that is Personal Safety Awareness, than I was used to and I had already written myself a list:

1. No walking the dog after dark.

2. Lock the car doors when driving alone.

3. Purchase capsicum spray for handbag.

But as I stood there listening as he recalled the recent unfortunate events I felt a sense of alarm and mentally made additions to my list that included HSR – that is House Security Rules:

4. Never open the windows no matter how hot it gets.

5. Deadlock all doors even when at home.

6. Look into purchase of large vicious dog (Existing canine more cute than killer!).

7. Look into purchase of taser or similar (This may be illegal).

My expression must have mirrored my feelings because Rajan hastily added that apart from the thefts it was a lovely place to live. I went inside feeling vaguely reassured. After locking the security door behind me and then dead-locking the front door I proceeded around the house checking that all the windows were closed, latched and deadlocked before I settled down on the couch with a cup of tea. I sat musing to myself. Having relocated with my husband from a fairly quiet, small regional town I knew a huge move like this would require a few adjustments. We had already noticed a few rather odd characters wandering around and also the high incidence of what appears to be people living in vehicles near the local park areas, but with an optimistic outlook and a resolve to not be un-nerved by these things I concluded that I did feel safe and relaxed in my new home and that the positives of living here were certainly outweighing the negatives.

Firstly, we were enjoying living near the beach – well, I was anyway. Gino, my husband, is always a bit suspicious of the outdoors – “Why sit outside when you can sit inside?” he asks.  Subsequently, so far us ‘going to the beach’ comprised of a short walk along the boardwalk followed by a long sit in a café!

Secondly, the canine community has made our terrier, Charlie, feel very welcome. A short stroll takes forever as our little doggy friends do their doggy thing!

Thirdly, as a fledgling writer, you can imagine my delight when soon after moving here I realized that many of the roads around the area were named after famous writers and poets. Not only that, but my street in particular was in honor of an Irish woman called Lady Marguerite Gardiner, the Countess of Blessington (also known simply as Lady Blessington) who was a novelist. This surely was a sign. I immediately felt like I was in good company and ready to be inspired by those who have gone before.

Finally, when Gino and I were looking for a suburb to call home, we knew from the start that the choice would have to be between Fitzroy and here. So, I was intrigued and excited to learn that St Kilda is nicknamed ‘the Village’ and although I haven’t had a chance to discuss this with any locals yet, I am assuming it is called this after Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan, New York. What I know of ‘the Village’ is that it was a melting pot of creativity, artistic endeavor and bohemian living at the turn of the 19th century and for many years following. It was a place that attracted and inspired many famous people – my beloved Isadora Duncan spent time there (I am a dance artist first and writer second). To think that the locals here feel a connection to that place and want to emulate and encourage the same, makes me certain that we made the right decision!

Finishing up my cup of tea, I absentmindedly leaned over and opened a window because it was getting rather stuffy in the lounge room. I smiled to myself when I realized I had just broken one of my new House Safety Rules! I decided to leave the window open.

So, even though the packing boxes have barely been put away, I have an overwhelming sense of place and although the neighbors are saying ‘Welcome to Winnipeg,’ I honestly feel like I have simply come home.

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